Minister Aglukkaq Leads Delegation to Defend Canadian Seal Hunt at World Trade Organization

March 17, 2014 - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and Minister for the Arctic Council, today delivered the following statement to the World Trade Organization Appellate Body:

“Members of the Division, on behalf of Canada, let me first thank you and the Appellate Body Secretariat for your efforts in assisting the parties to resolve this dispute. My name is Leona Aglukkaq and I am the Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council for Canada. I was born and still live in Canada’s North. Sealing is part of my culture and heritage.

“I would like to make a few introductory remarks before I pass the floor to other members of Canada’s delegation, who will address in detail the legal aspects of this appeal.

“My presence here today before this panel follows through on our government’s commitment to appeal any findings that would allow this unfair ban to continue.

“Trade needs to be governed by facts and evidence, not falsehoods and arbitrary assertions.

“Let me start by emphasizing that seals have been harvested around the world for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including subsistence, commerce, and the protection of fisheries. This is especially true for Canada, where sealing has played an integral role in the development and sustainability of Canada’s eastern and northern coastal communities. The seal hunt has been at the very heart of the economic well-being of these communities, both before and after the first European seal hunters came to our shores. Not only does it provide a livelihood for our families, but the seal hunt enables our communities to maintain their traditions and way of life.

“As we clearly indicated to the Panel, the seal hunt in Canada is humane, sustainable and well-regulated.

“The dispute before you concerns a discriminatory prohibition on the importation and sale of seal products from Canada and other countries into the European Union. Through its Seal Regime, the European Union has unilaterally determined that some seal products are more acceptable than others, based on the ancestry of the hunter, or the purpose of the hunt. The practical effect of the EU’s Seal Regime is that seal products from some countries are excluded, while seal products from other countries are allowed into the EU market. In particular, the EU excludes Canadian seal products on the basis that some seals in the east coast commercial seal hunt may—according to their claim—be inhumanely harvested.

“At the same time, the EU allows seal products from Greenland to be marketed in the EU without any regard for the manner in which they are hunted. In other words, the EU Seal Regime does nothing to actually keep seal products out of the EU market or away from the EU public. It simply replaces seal products that used to come from Canada and Norway with seal products that come from places like Greenland and the European Union. And, these products are derived from hunts that result in poor animal welfare outcomes for a high percentage of seals. This blatant hypocrisy on the part of the European Union is, in Canada’s view, what is fundamentally unjust about the ban our sealers are facing in the EU market.

“Moreover, Canada contests the EU’s attempt to justify its Seal Regime on the basis of public morality concerns about animal welfare. From the perspective of Canada’s sealing communities, the assertion that what we have been doing for thousands of years is so morally wrong as to justify a trade prohibition is very troubling. Any law or regulation that purports to be based on the public morality defence should be subject to close judicial scrutiny. The invocation of this defence must be accompanied by clear and compelling evidence demonstrating, not only the necessity of the measure chosen, but also how the public morals of the responding Member—in this case, the European Union—are put at risk. This evidence cannot be rooted in myths and misinformation.

“I will now turn to my colleagues to provide an overview of Canada’s legal arguments in this dispute. Thank you for the close consideration that you will undoubtedly give to all Parties’ arguments in this case.”

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Jennifer Kennedy
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of the Environment,
The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency,
and the Arctic Council

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
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